Paris: City of Light

The Elegant Salon of Madame Récamier


Parisian Salons
 ~Salons of   Enlightenment
 ~Madame de   Stäel         
~Salons of the   Restoration
 ~The Salons of   Victor Hugo

Influence of Printed Materials
 ~Pre-Revolutionary   Timeline
 ~Post-Revolutionary   Timeline


Defining the Parisians
 ~Parisians Viewed   by Foreigners
 ~Parisians   Viewed by   Themselves
 ~Paris Fashion




Figure 1.9 Gerárd, François. Madame Récamier (1805), Musée Carnavalet, Paris, (web source).


Mme. Récamier coyly looks out to the viewer as she elegantly lounges upon her chaise-longue. She is enchantingly pretty with her supple figure, curly, chestnut hair and her smooth, ivory complexion. Emblematic of purity and innocence, Mme. R is dressed entirely in white, transparent muslin with a rich, gold shawl wrapped loosely around her body. It is as though she has just danced the night away. Like a ancient Greek goddess, she voluptuously poses in her bare feet, with the left sleeve of her dress fallen off her shoulder and her golden shawl dragging along the floor, covering little of her body. Based on Gerárd's portrait, one would assume that the guests of Mme. Récamier's salon came merely to gawk at her dazzling beauty and in fact many may have.


Madame Récamier's salon differed widely from any of her predecessors such as Madame Geoffrin and Madame de Stäel. While Mme. Geoffrin and Mme. de Stäel had attracted a crowd interested in each salonnières' patience, understanding, and most importantly intelligence, it has been said that Mme. Récamier's guests came to view their hostess's beauty alone.

Referring to Gerárd's portrait of the lovely Mme. Récamier, it is as though she perched on her throne to be worshipped by all her guests. Quick-witted men such as Benjamin Constant, Lucien Bonaparte and François René de Chateaubriand were intoxicated by her loveliness alone - "her dazzling complexion, the long lashes on the exquisite cheek, the little curls on the clear forehead, red lips, dimpled arms, milk-white skin. With such possessions as these what need has a woman of cleverness?" (Hall, 143)

Although Mme. R was not noted as being extremely intelligent or clever as a salonnière, she was recognized for her exceptional tact and gift for listening (Quennell, 57). With her welcoming smile and invested interest in all her guests, including: writers, politicians, artists, and distinguished foreigners, all were received at Mme. Récamier's salon. Her salon was located in a small, simple apartment in a convent on the Left Bank, the Abbaye-aux-Bois. Alphonse Marie Louis de Lamartine read his "Meditations" and Delphine Gay de Giradin her first poems here. Rachel, the well-known French actress recited, Pauline Viardot sang, while Eugène Delacroix, Jacques-Louis David, and François Gerárd represented the world of art at the mixed salon of Mme. Récamier.



As this site is entitled, France in the Age of Les Misérables, we will now briefly examine the topic of salons through the eyes of Victor Hugo. Click here to continue.


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